EDITORIAL: Desperate to create the false impression of normalcy in the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) the Modi government recently contrived a guided a two-day tour of the disputed region for nearly two dozen foreign diplomats. This was the third such visit by foreign envoys since IIOJK was stripped of its special status in an illegal and immoral action in August 2019. To stop an expected backlash the Delhi government had arrested and jailed all political leaders - including three former chief ministers — businessmen, journalists, and countless others, cut off phone and internet access, and imposed strict restrictions on people’s movement. After constant criticism from different quarters, some of the restrictions were recently eased. But little else has changed; arrest and torture are still rampant. IIOJK remains the world’s most militarized zones, which clearly shows the Kashmiri people are not willing to accept New Delhi’s rule.
To prove to all is well, at least half a dozen of security bunkers in Srinagar and its outskirts were removed ahead of Wednesday’s arrival of diplomats. They were driven amid tight security from the Srinagar airport to the nearby town of Magam to meet with a select group of councillors. What must not have gone unnoticed, however, was that the city’s residents had shut their shops and businesses as a mark of protest against Modi government’s policies towards them. The visitors were also scheduled to meet with another select group of pro-India individuals in Jammu. That controlled, sanitized exercise surely did not tell them things were normal. Common sense suggests if there was nothing to hide, they should have been allowed to move freely, interact with people, and also contact their political leadership. It is worth recalling that when such a guided tour was arranged first in January of last year, representatives of the EU countries had stayed back on being declined their request to meet with people of their own choosing, especially the three former chief ministers: Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti — all of whom had been pro-India until it became impossible to ignore the rage in the streets (People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) Mufti had even formed a coalition government in the disputed state with the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) and her government ended when the latter party pulled out of the ruling coalition). According to media reports, diplomats from other countries who did make the visit later raised concerns about human rights violations and abuses in private conversations with government officials and leaders.
Diplomats stationed in New Delhi really do not need such guided tours to have an objective assessment of the situation in IIOJK. It is part of their job to obtain information regarding any issues of interest as well as concern from independent sources and report the same through regular cable traffic to governments in their respective home countries. Foreign governments, indeed, are well aware of what is going on in the disputed region. Unfortunately, however, those who can persuade New Delhi to respect human rights as well as its obligations towards UNSC resolutions that call for the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination, prefer to look the other way due to economic/strategic considerations. Which not only is morally indefensible, but dangerous, too. As India keeps blaming Pakistan to cover up its crimes in the disputed region by resorting to provocative actions across the Line of Control, and the Working Boundary also brandishing threats of ‘strategic strikes’ that can trigger an open confrontation between the two countries, leading to consequences that no one in their right mind would like to see.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021